Complete Customer Experience: The Web As A Marketing Tool
By Tom Detmer, Experian
Years ago, as the Internet bandwagon progressed full-steam ahead,
companies scrambled to develop a presence online. Back then, many marketers
made a costly mistake ' employing inconsistent messaging between their
online and offline communications.
If you think those days are over, think again. It is not uncommon for
consumers to visit a Web site of a favorite retailer and quickly leave
wondering if it is even the same store where they enjoy shopping. This
disconnect disheartens customers who are more satisfied with a 'complete'
experience, or a seamless tie between the online and offline worlds.
Consumers don't separate their online lives from experiences at
brick-and-mortar retailers, so why should the marketing deviate when
shifting gears from offline to online efforts?
Although online and offline marketing sometimes operate autonomously,
synergistic marketing can help you tie the two sides of your business
together. Take steps now to avoid losing revenue and relationships from
confused customers, and make the most of your marketing dollars.
Changes In The Market = Changes In Your Marketing
As marketers evaluate the relationship between their presence offline
and in cyberspace, consistent customer communication and marketing should
always be near the top of the agenda. Just as the Internet and e-commerce
changed the face of business, customers continually change the way they
purchase goods and services. Therefore, your company must change the way it
markets to them.
Consider the following
Customers are looking beyond the price tag. Online and offline, consumers
today are not interested in being sold, but rather in enjoying the
experience. So what will keep them purchasing at your Web site and store?
The answer is brand loyalty, which relies on the effective synergy of your
online and offline marketing.
Customers expect to be known by name, but need respect for online
privacy. Take, for example, my favorite online/offline bookseller. I often
purchase books and music from their Web site, and they keep a running
database of my purchases. From this list, they are able to make
recommendations of other books and music I may enjoy. After checkout, they
send me an e-mail when my purchase has been shipped, and let me know when I
can expect to see it, complete with a tracking number. These acts of
personalized service keep me coming back because I am comfortable with how
the order process works. After all, they 'know' me.
sure it is strictly enforced. Any time you talk about keeping track of your
customers, privacy becomes a valid concern. Consumers who do business with
online retailers usually have a clear picture of what crosses the line in
terms of privacy. Maintaining the balance between privacy and
personalization will increase the comfort level your customers feel for your
business. When customers are truly comfortable with your company knowing
them 'by name,' you will keep their business.
The customer is the center of business strategy. According to Meta Group,
a research and consulting firm, an experienced consumer fosters between 10
and 20 online relationships. Clearly, your goal is to become the one the
consumer chooses over and over. To do this, make customers and their needs
your top priority. If your customers know they can count on you, they will
continue to be your customer. Lose this focus, and you'll start losing
Online or offline, nurturing customer relationships is more important
than ever. With so many competitors in the marketplace, differentiation is
key. In order to be one of those 10 or 20 online relationships customers
retain, you will have to make the customer more comfortable with your
business than your competitors. How easy is it for customers to do business
with you? Can your customers respond to the e-mail offers they receive at a
retail outlet? Can customers return a product purchased online at a
brick-and-mortar store? Address these challenges and customers will be back
Opening Doors With E-mail Communication
E-commerce today presents marketers with more opportunities to reach and
sustain customer relationships than ever before. As one of the simplest and
most cost-effective CRM strategies, e-mail marketing has proven its worth as
a marketing tool. Response rates, ranging usually from three to ten percent,
have justified the use of e-mail marketing, and e-mail is an effective
complement to traditional direct-mail campaigns.
E-mail provides instantaneous, two-way communication with customers and
has many advantages:
Personalization. Speak directly to your customers with the ability
to be highly individualized in your communications. Typically, with e-mail,
the higher the level of personalization, the higher the response rates you
Customized content. Today's technology allows content to be
customer-specific, or customized to speak directly to the customer. Develop
a subject line you know will catch their eye, or make offers for customers
who fit a specific demographic. Drilling down to an ultra-targeted list has
never been easier, and your options are limited only by your imagination.
Customer appreciation. Over time, your customers will appreciate
the time you took to learn about them and their interests, while still
maintaining their privacy.
Loyalty. Regular communication with customers helps increase brand
loyalty and customer retention.
Cost-effectiveness. When you consider the bottom line, e-mail
marketing is an efficient strategy that reduces the cost per contact before
purchase. Because each e-mail marketing message costs only pennies to send,
it makes sense to include it in your marketing mix.
Marketers have begun to see the value of multichannel marketing by tying
their campaigns together with other online tactics. Take, for instance,
address standardization and verification. Consistently monitoring changes to
customers' postal and e-mail addresses allows you to ensure the accurate
and on-time delivery of online purchases, while keeping you updated on
changes. Many e-marketers also use some form of customer data enhancement,
allowing for real-time updating of demographic and household information, so
campaigns can be more targeted and efficient for niche marketing. If you
offer credit accounts, it's always a good idea to link your online
marketing to your credit services as well. The benefit ' you can
pre-approve customers automatically as they shop your site and check
individual data elements to guarantee the identity of your customer.
Implementing tools like these along with your e-mail campaigns will
ultimately save you time and money in the long run.
Aiming Toward 'Complete' Online Marketing
In addition to the clear benefits, e-mail offers endless possibilities
as technology goes forward. Rich media e-mail, which incorporates HTML or
Flash, is more attractive and has greater response rates than traditional
text-based messages. Consistency in brand messages increases with the use of
these applications, and e-mail also offers chances for cross-selling and
upselling, as well as other revenue-generating opportunities.
As you create more appealing messages, it is important that your messages
are communicated consistently and frequently, regardless of whether the
objective is to drive traffic to your site, call center or retail outlet.
When used properly and consistently, e-mail, catalogs, Web sites and call
centers can join forces so their effect will be greater than the sum of its
parts. When these pieces work together to communicate an integrated,
consistent message about your brand and products, you will enjoy great
success. Combined with your offline marketing efforts, your Web marketing
tools will make for a well-rounded and 'complete' customer experience.
Tom Detmer is president and general manager for Experian's
eMarketing Services group. He brings more than 20 years of direct marketing
experience to the e-mail marketing industry. Detmer has served as president
and CEO of 24/7 Media, and president and CEO of Exactis.com from January
1999 until June of 2000 when it was acquired by 24/7 Media.
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